Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights – Vice Raid and Early TV in Hollywood’s Biggest Storehouse

Hollywood Storage, Courtesy Google Earth
The Hollywood Storage Building as seen in Google Earth.

Originally Los Angeles’ tallest building when opened in 1926, the Hollywood Storage Building at the southwest corner of Highland Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard towered over the rapidly expanding film city. Today it ironically advertises entertainment programming with giant billboards on its edifice. The Hollywood Storage Building still serves as one of Hollywood’s premier storage locations, as beautiful as it is practical.

Los Angeles residents needed little to no extra storage space pre-1900, as few possessed many superfluous items. With the rise of department stores and the birth of credit, many began purchasing consumer products advertised in magazines or newspapers to keep up with their acquisitive neighbors. Most storage facilities began small, more for businesses to store records and documents, led by the Bekins family and their moving/storage business.

Hollywood Storage, 1928

The Hollywood Storage Building in 1928, showing the radio antennas on the roof.

Bekins brothers John and Martin founded their family moving company in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1891, eventually helping many Midwesterners transport their goods westward to the expanding western boom town of Los Angeles. In 1906, they constructed a concrete storage warehouse downtown to store company business records and homeowners’ worldly goods, with the solidly constructed businesses offering consumers reassurance their items would remain safe and sound. Other companies followed suit, building storage facilities around the city, including the Hollywood Fireproof Storage Co., erected at 1666 Highland Ave. in 1915 by Charles E. Toberman.

Hollywood construction magnate Toberman decided to compete head-on with Bekins in 1924 after purchasing land at the corner of Highland Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, conceiving of a massive structure at the site, one as attractive as it was dominating. Newspapers trumpeted his plans to build a 12-story, storage warehouse costing $300,000 for the Hollywood Storage Co. in 1924. Not until May 1925 did Toberman pull permits, however, for a 14-story facility designed by the renowned Los Angeles’ architectural firm Morgan, Walls & Clements to be constructed of steel and concrete. Unlike other monumental storage buildings around Los Angeles, this would feature Spanish design throughout, along with an elaborate lobby and other public spaces.

At 217 feet deep, the structure would include three large freight elevators and two passenger elevators along with office space. The May 3 Los Angeles Times said the company’s offices would be on the first floor, with a giant ballroom to host 1,000 located on the top floor. Individual floors would be assigned for rug storage, piano storage, silver, furs, and jewelry, and even one devoted to automobiles. Half of the allotted space in the building would be leased to outside businesses. Manager Charles A. Reinhart told the Times on September 27, 1925, that the building would house not only storage “but will afford a vast amount of space for offices, showrooms, and warehouse facilities for manufacturers’ agents… .” Unlike other storage facilities, the Terminal Storage Building featured railroad spurs allowing easy movement of large materials.

Times CBS TV Station Holly Stor LAT 3-24-49
Los Angeles Times artist Charles Owens drew a cutaway of the building, showing KTTV on the 14th floor, March 24, 1949. 

Starting construction a few months later, the William Simpson Construction Co. finished the building in early 1926, with a final cost of about $500,000. Trussless Architectural Roof Co. pulled a permit on January 8 to finish the interior roof. Adding an unique touch, KMTR radio outfitted the 12th story as a studio and broadcasting facility, opening June 18. One studio would host the work of solo performers, while the other would allow orchestras or other large groups to perform. Two antennas 150 feet tall on top of the structure would provide the strongest broadcast signal of any station in the Los Angeles area. After confusion with the Pacific Electric Terminal Building downtown, the facility was officially renamed the Hollywood Storage Co. building.

Morgan, Walls & Clements’ outstanding design won awards; the Southern California chapter of the American Institute of Architects awarded it a certificate of honor, while the American Division of the Pan-American Congress of Architects honored the firm with a medallion.

The staid storage structure sometimes played risque as well. In 1930, the 14th floor, leased out for meetings, special events, and parties, hosted a fraternity-sponsored Prohibition event leading to a massive vice raid. Over 500 fraternity men faced arrest December 5, 1930, after a blow out “fraternity benefit stag smoker” featuring four topless dancers, gambling, and plenty of illegal alcohol in the top floor ballroom, rented by a group of men claiming to be with the Sigma Rho fraternity. Glenn C. Mapes provided the gambling tables, which he rented from Hollywood studio prop rooms. Mac D. Jones, millionaire ex-policeman recently appointed to lead the city’s vice squad, headed the raiding party of 12 officers dressed in tuxedos. At the height of the women’s dance, they locked the elevators and doors after identifying themselves. Looking to escape arrest, partygoers threw bottles, smashed chairs, and flipped over dice and card games. Six men eventually pleaded guilty to conducting illegal gambling and received short jail time.

In 1932, Toberman and associates sold the building for $385,000 to Bekins, with California’s Railroad Commission approving the sale on February 1. Not until May 5, 1939, did Bekins switch the facility’s name from Hollywood Storage Co. to Bekins, however. In 1949, the 14th floor was remodeled into the Los Angeles Times-CBS Television Station, lasting for a short time. For the last few decades, however, the entire structure has operated as Iron Mountain, an entertainment-related storage facility for records, film and photographic materials. At the same time, its exterior serves as giant billboards for other entertainment projects and companies. Monumental as well as attractive, 1025 N. Highland still serves as a storage facility 95 years after its construction.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1926, Architecture, Hollywood, Hollywood Heights, Mary Mallory, Television and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights – Vice Raid and Early TV in Hollywood’s Biggest Storehouse

  1. Sheila says:

    What a gorgeous building. And it’s so skinny! Fascinating article.


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